Top 100 Donegal Families

Top Families of County Donegal, Ireland.

From Michael O’Laughlin at

Todays Topics include :

1) Books on Donegal genealogy and history

2) Top 19th century family names in Donegal

3) Top Donegal families on the Map of the Four Masters

4) Historical notes from The Irish Roots Cafe


It came from Donegal

Perhaps the most famous book connected to Donegal

is ‘The Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters...’. As the

Gaelic culture was coming apart and the plantations

were coming to Ulster, Brother Michael O’Clery was

sent on a mission from his monastery in Donegal.

In Search of Writings

His task was simple, collect all existing written history

of Ireland and compile into one comprehensive book.

Below are some of my books that today have record of

the families in Donegal. There is more info, including

placenames and history in the links below each book


Books of the Month:

1) Families of County Donegal, Ireland

2) County Donegal, Ireland, genealogy....

3) Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters

19th Century Families

Now lets look at the birth family names I posted in

‘County Donegal, Ireland, genealogy and family

history notes’:

“ The 19th century finds the following families most

numerous in the county :”

Gallagher (196) Gallaher

Doherty (160) Dougherty

Boyle (102) Boile

O'Donnell (102) Donnell

McLaughlin (81) Laughlin

Sweeney (50) Sweaney

Ward (40) MacWard

Kelly (37) Kelley

McGinley (37) McKinley

McFadden (33) Fadden

McGowan (33) Mac Gowan

Duffy (29) Duffie

Campbell (28) Cambell

Family Ranking

The number of births recorded is given in parenthesis

after the name. There was more than one way of

spelling any of these names. They are grouped under

the most common spelling found. Note how the usage

of the 'O' and 'Mac' before Irish names had changed

from the 17th century records.

An example of a different spelling is given after the

number of births.

Leading 'Nobles'

The 'noble' families since the plantation of Donegal,

according to O'Hart, include Fitzwilliam, who became

the earls of Tirconnell; and Richart Talbot, the Lord

Lt. of Ireland, who was created Duke of Tirconnell

during the reign of James the Second.

The families of Brownlow and Carpenter have been

subsequent earls of Tirconnell; Chichester, earls of

Donegal; Conyngham, earls of Mountcharles;

Cockayne (Cockayne, Cokain), barons of Cullen;

and Hewitt, barons of Lifford.

Other examples of the nobility of this regime appear

in works like the Irish Book of Arms, IGF edition.

Missing Families

There are of course, hundreds of families not noted

above, that will be found in the Donegal books

above. There are also many ways of spelling each

name shown.

Most of the old Irish names can have the Mac or 'O'

before the name dropped and added at will.

Additionally many old Irish names were translated

or 'mistranslated' into English from the original

gaelic. Hence many English sounding names

may actually be found in old Irish families! “

Below we find a resource which gives families

from earlier periods, including the Norman

invasions of the 12th century.

The Four Masters

Donegal has a special connection to the Annals

of Ireland by the Four Masters, as it was compiled

there. In these Annals first translated by Connellan,

there appears the first major map of the location of

Irish Families. My link below explains more:

Donegal Names on the Map

L = Lord; P= Prince, E = Earl, B = Baron, C = Chief, v=Viscount

Mac Bride

Mac Clean

Mac Closkey

Mac Duvan, C.

Mac Crossan

Mac Davett

Mac Gettigan

Mac Gilbride

Mac Ginty

Mac Gorigal

Mac Gowan

Mac Hugh

Mac Sweeny, L.


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